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Horizontal Leadership

The concept of horizontal leadership was very obvious within a mentor of mine. He was the property manager of a 606 unit apartment community. He was responsible for leading 25 employees and over 900 tenants.

Sean was a very effective leader.

He had this ability to help people reach their full potential, and in turn the organization grew leaps and bounds. One day I ask Sean, “how are you such a great leader?” his answer was profound he said, “I ask others for advise.”

What do most people think of when they hear the word “leader?” I have asked over 300 realtors, property managers, and investors this very question. Their answers include words like, “authority, strong, powerful, a person who has followers, the boss that makes decisions, servant, likable, and courageous.” People tend to associate a leader as a person who is “over” a group of people.

Think organizational chart:

Google’s dictionary defines leadership as one’s ability to influence people’s actions, beliefs, and/or decisions.

Leadership in the most common understanding takes a (visually) vertical approach. Kouzes & Posnes in their book Leadership the Challenge state, “The climb to the top is arduous and long.” Many people describe a leader as someone who, “is at the top of the ladder.” They may take charge. Leadership is often recognized as the person who has the most power, therefore recognized at the highest point in a group.

Horizontal Leadership

I’m here to tell you that leadership is not about authority, dominance, or power. It is not at the top (visually) or at the bottom (visually, as in servant leadership). Leadership is horizontal. What does this mean?

Follower Leader Follower

True leadership (influencing people’s actions, beliefs, and/or decisions) can only happen if the leader knows they are a center of influence. They are on the same level as the rest of the people in the organization, group, or association. They share the same values, ideas, and beliefs. When people who are peers feel at any time that they are below the leader, anxiety well be felt by the peer group, and they will ultimately be envious of the leader’s position. Leaders who abuse their power lose trust.

The goal of a leader is to help their peers understand that they are on the same level. A great leader truly and honestly appreciates the input from others.

My understanding of leadership includes organizing other people’s thoughts, beliefs, and ideas. Help them to clarify their best thoughts to be the most productive member of their team, group or organization. A leader is not the first to go into a room. A leader is the person whose peers have the desire to find out what is in the room, and they organize the trip.

How do you see leadership???


Nathan Bush, MBA, NALP is the leadership and influence expert for real estate professionals.  He is the Senior Property Manager for Affinity Property Group and a licensed Missouri Realtor. Nathan’s book Leadership Coaching as a Strategy for Employee Development serves real estate professionals and property managers to break the “Cycle of Resistance” facing their organization. For more information visit: and download his book for free. 


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